Constipation is a common problem. Image via Adobe Stock

Staying regular: How to ensure a healthy gut and bowel

Nature’s Pharmacy: Qualified homeopath Hanli Rautenbach gives advice on the importance of keeping regular and avoiding constipation.


Constipation is a common problem. Image via Adobe Stock

Treating something holistically means that the symptom cannot be looked at on its own. Our heads and bodies function together, meaning our feelings, thoughts and physical bodies are connected. When it comes to constipation, the same rule applies.

Constipation is such a common problem that most people have suffered from it at one stage or another.

Understanding constipation and its causes

Sudden changes in bowel movements can be considered a medical emergency and need to be treated with the necessary urgency.

A bowel obstruction or acute appendicitis can cause changes and are usually accompanied by pain. A gradual slowing down of frequency also needs to be considered with other presenting symptoms.

Pressure from a tumour can interfere with the frequency of bowel movements. Conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis and post-stroke can interfere with nerves around the colon and rectum.

And of course, as hormones help to balance fluids in the body, any condition influencing hormones (like diabetes, pregnancy and an under-active thyroid) could lead to constipation.

The Mayo Clinic lists the following factors as common contributors to constipation:

  • being female
  • being older
  • being unfit
  • having a low fibre diet
  • suffering from depression
  • having an eating disorder or taking certain medications for pain as risk factors for constipation

Treating underlying conditions would be the first course of action, as certain risk factors cannot be corrected or avoided. But there is a lot you can do.

Treating constipation holistically

Louise Hay describes constipation as refusing to let go of old ideas or being stuck in the past.

Chronic constipation can be caused by the pelvic floor muscles not being able to relax and thus not allowing for a bowel movement to take place.

In practice, the predominant state of mind and the way a person thinks can be seen in the physical body. It would, of course, be so much easier if a condition was only caused by one problem. Complex systems can malfunction in different ways and therefore problems that look the same can be caused by different issues.

Anxiety as a cause

When constipation has its roots in anxiety, tension and stress, you can consider treating it with herbs like slippery elm and sceletium. Using relaxing oils like rosemary and peppermint and drinking chamomile tea should bring relief.

Homeopathically, Nervuton2 (Natura) and Magen (Natura) can be purchased off the shelf.

An anxious lifestyle can impact your gut. Image supplied

Busy lifestyle

When constipation is caused by a busy lifestyle with rich or fast foods, not enough water and too much alcohol, adjusting your diet to one with more soluble fibre (oats, psyllium husks and legumes), and more water and exercise, will, on its own, cause positive changes.

Herbs like yellow dock, boldo, dandelion, barberry and rhubarb should be considered. Homeopathic formulations like Febro 1, Febro 2, Gallen (Natura) and Liver (Pegasus) could bring relief.

To help relieve constipation, we should also support the beneficial bacteria in our intestines which are depleted by the many anti-bacterial products we often use. Instead of buying probiotics, a gentler way of supporting these essential colonies could be by eating sauerkraut (best to make your own) and drinking kefir. Start with a small amount and build it up slowly.

When suffering with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, adding fibre in the wrong form and quantities will cause aggravation of the condition. It is often necessary to, through a process of elimination, learn what your gut responds to. A product containing digestive enzymes with probiotics should bring relief.

Colour therapy

In colour therapy, a treatment for constipation is to use a red marker pen and to draw in the last skin fold, closest to the tip of the little finger, encircling the finger. The red stimulates the large and small intestine into action. Be mindful of children ingesting chemicals when sticking their hands in their mouths.

Colour therapy can help with constipation. Image via Adobe Stock

Listen to your body

Something we often forget is that the bowel urges you with smaller nudges as time passes. It is so important to listen to your body when it says it needs to go.

A healthy bathroom routine also sets the tone for you to have regular movements. Water is vital. Remember that caffeine dehydrates, so limit your intake.

Additionally foods like cooked beetroot and raw pineapple as well as soaked linseeds help in different ways to ease constipation.

Always speak to your health care practitioner and pharmacist when there are changes in the frequency of your visits to the loo.

Visit Hanli Rautenbach’s Facebook page here to suggest health-related topics.